New Military and Veteran Family Wellness Institute Established at UT-Austin

New Military and Veteran Family Wellness Institute Established at UT-Austin

A new Institute for Military & Veteran Family Wellness at the University of Texas at Austin has been established where families can access support for a range of social and health needs, UT News reported Tuesday.

The Institute, a joint effort between the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry of Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin, will address military and veteran family needs by evaluating, developing and implementing programs that put their at the forefront, according to the article.

After years of continuous deployments and obstacles to targeted and effective wellness programs, military and veteran families face many needs, including addressing military trauma effects, family stress from prolonged separation, and challenges in transitioning to civilian life, the report says.

“Veterans’ challenges are their families’ challenges, whether it’s learning to live with a severe injury, coping with mental health issues, or adjusting to civilian life,” said Elisa Borah, institute director and social work professor. “It is often spouses, in fact, who encourage the veteran or service member to seek treatment to save their marriage or improve family dynamics.”

Anne Jackson is one of the spouses of the 1.7 million Texas military veterans, including 40,000 veterans located in the Austin area. Her husband returned from his second Afghanistan deployment and was detached and easily angered, putting their family on edge. Jackson received counseling and eventually persuaded her husband to receive counseling too, according to the report.

“We military families don’t just need support when our partners are gone,” Jackson said. “We need it when they are back, too. And it’s not all parades and rainbows and YouTube clips where everyone is crying because they are so happy. It’s a lot of hard work,” she added.

Jackson and her husband joined one of the institute’s programs and found talking to other couples experiencing the same challenges to be helpful, according to the report.

“Being able to talk to people who went through what I went through provides a lot of healing. It reminds you that you are not crazy, that you are not alone,” Jackson said.

All institute programs are research-based, developed in collaboration with health care providers and participants, and are offered free of charge. It works closely with community stakeholders to provide vital input on its approach and offerings, according to the report.

The institute’s feature programs include:

  • The Veteran Spouse Resiliency Group Program, which offers a safe space for spouses and partners of veterans to explore their unique experiences and challenges through online and in-person peer-support groups.
  • The Veteran Spouse Network, a network of veteran spouses providing online and in-person peer support. The network offers opportunities for spouses to connect, share resources and receive support and guidance with other veteran spouses and committed partners within their communities and throughout Texas.
  • The Veteran Couples Connect Program, a post-traumatic stress disorder treatment (PTSD) program for couples where at least one member is experiencing PTSD. Eight weekly sessions teach veteran and active-duty couples strategies to reduce PTSD impacts on their relationships.

The institute also conducts research to evaluate existing programs, to better understand crucial military and veteran family issues, and to create modes of support for families. Staff offer technical assistance and evidence-based training known to increase competency and best practices among health care organizations serving veteran and military communities, the article said.

“There’s a huge opportunity to better meet the health needs of Central Texas’ veterans,” said Dr. Michael Pignone, assistant dean for veterans affairs and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at Dell Med. “Veterans and their families have a wide range of both medical and social needs that we must better understand, and the institute is helping to advance that knowledge.”

Dell Medical School’s care for veterans also includes a partnership with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System to provide better access and more streamlined local veteran care through a primary care residency track and an inpatient referral system to Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas, according to the article.

More information on the Institute for Military & Veteran Family Wellness is here.

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